Being a student with sickle cell disease has always been incredibly difficult for me. Whether it be bringing an oxygen tank with me to kindergarten, receiving monthly blood transfusions in high school, or being taken out of my on-campus housing dormitory in an ambulance during college, it has always been a challenging yet rewarding experience.
Many of my peers would often inquire about how I was able to have so many absences but manage to stay afloat in all my classes. For many years, I didn’t realize that maintaining good grades despite my lack of attendance was commendable. I always believed I was doing what was necessary to keep up with everyone else and appear as normal as possible.
However, as I got older, I discovered just how resilient and driven I truly was. It took a lot of determination, dedication, and diligence to achieve the accolades I have been given as a student. I would be insincere if I said that it was easy or that I didn’t get frustrated along the journey. The truth is the years I spent as a student were some of the most discouraging and stressful years of my life.
I spent most of my time playing catch-up or carrying the burden of missing assignments in multiple classes. Most of my free time was spent in tutoring sessions, completing previous or current homework assignments, and taking exams that I missed from being sick. I found a lot of comfort in praying or speaking to guidance counselors about my circumstances and desperation to succeed. I believe my persistence is what allowed me to accomplish my goal of remaining an honor student despite the disadvantage I was faced with.
I made sure to form relationships with my teachers by attending their office hours, meeting with them before or after class, and being as transparent as possible about my illness. I knew I was responsible for informing them about my health as well as making sure I received accommodations in and out of the classroom.
I truly was my biggest advocate. I was honest about my limitations, and with their help, I would form a timeline of due dates for my work. I made sure to have a clear understanding of what expectations they had for me in addition to sharing what I required from them. These conversations were often difficult but always essential because they allowed me to become a more efficient student.
If I had to give advice to a student with a chronic illness such as sickle cell disease that is having trouble staying motivated, I would encourage them to stay consistent. The most imperative piece of success is usually believing in yourself and never underestimating your abilities.
Since early childhood, I’ve had many people try to discourage me from being a student. They’d suggest I “take a break” or “limit my course load,” and sometimes they’d just recommend I quit. If I would have listened to those opinions or internalized them in any way, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I certainly wouldn’t have my bachelor’s degree. Although I wasn’t always physically present in the classroom, my education has always been a priority for me. My mother supported me in many ways but mostly by instilling that my illness is not an exception for why I could not perform academically. She knew I was intelligent and believed that if I applied myself, I could reap the benefits of my hard work. Seeing her make so many sacrifices for me inspired me to be ambitious and not let my illness hinder me from having the lifestyle I knew I deserved.
Although I had a disadvantage with attendance, I was still able to compete with students who were inside the classroom every day.
My hope is that future patients with sickle cell disease can look at my journey and realize that they’re able to live the life they dream of without limiting themselves because of their health.
Photo Credit: Hill Street Studios / DigitalVision via Getty Images
Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.
Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.